Christmas Cookie Party

I know, I know, it’s May. I’ve been chasing after a baby recently. Better late than never……

Rolling the dough

 

When I was growing up there were a lot of family traditions around the holidays. One of my favorites every year was making Christmas cookies with my mom, brother, and cousins. We would get together to make dozens and dozens of what I consider to this day to be the quintessential Christmas cookie, basic sugar cookie dough with a basic powdered sugar icing. There were tons of cookie cutters in all kinds of fun shapes and the decorating potentials were unlimited.

Although my holidays now as an adult with a new family of my own are quite

Many hands

different from when I was a child, this is a tradition I have carried with me into adulthood. This was the second year I have had this annual party at Earthaven and it was a huge success. The day was cool and rainy, perfect for hot drinks, hanging out, a little Christmas music , and cookies, cookies, cookies! Kids and adults of all ages came together in the Village Terraces kitchen to cut, bake, decorate, and eat. How can sugar and flour mean so much to me? It’s yet another way to bring people together.

 

    

 

 

 

 

 

 

Green Alternative to Bleach and Cleaners

I have been delighted to discover a product offered at Shangri-Laundry that is effective for laundry and household cleaning and is environmentally friendly.  I call it “enviro-oxy” because its real name, sodium percarbonate, is such a mouthful.

You mix this powder with water in varying proportions to provide stain-remover, laundry booster, surface cleaner, and so on. It is excellent for cleaning and removing organic stains (such as coffee, tea, wine, fruit juices, foods, sauces, grass and blood) from fabrics, plastics, fiberglass, porcelain, ceramics, wood, carpets, asphalt, concrete, etc. Don’t use it on wool or silk, however.

Greg Geis, laundry designer, researched to be sure that Enviro-Oxy would be safe for Earthaven’s water.  After use, it breaks down to oxygen and baking soda. Sodium Percarbonate (Enviro-Oxy) is the underlying ingredient of Oxi-Clean products.

I was very pleasantly surprised to find out how effective it is for a variety of uses. Like Greg, I am a convert and use it regularly. It comes in one-cup bags, which last a long time because a little bit goes a long way.

When you get some for the first time, you can also pick up a printed sheet of all the ways to mix it and use it. There are also helpful instructions on the web. The enviro-oxy bags and the instruction sheets are in the product cabinet pictured here.

Below is a wider shot of Shangri-Laundry and the products cabinet. The products are self-serve: select what you want, put the money in a small envelope with your name, and drop it in the cash box on top of the cabinet. If you need change, go next door to the home of laundry manager Diana Leafe Christian.

Top Ten Uses for a Gateway Sheep

A new lamb with protective mom looking on.

1-Aesthetics: Let’s face it. Little baby lambs are cute. There is nothing quite like walking by a big beautiful pasture full of lush green grass and mama sheep with tiny new lambs.

2-Wool: The Gateway sheep are sheared twice a year, in the spring and fall, and the wool is available for sale to Earthaven residents and friends. Just imagine wearing a hat knit by one friend from yarn spun by another friend with wool that was grown right in your own back yard!

3-Pasture Fertilization/Integrated System: Gateway is one of several farms at Earthaven and the sheep are one piece of a farm system working towards sustainability (while realizing that we have a long way to go.) Sheep, chickens, turkeys, winter storage vegetables, bio-fuel, house building, solar energy and human connection are some of the many pieces involved. Poop makes great fertilizer.

4-Education and Radical Responsibility: Two Earthaveners slaughtered one of the Gateway lambs to serve for the Thanksgiving dinner served in the Council Hall. One had experience with animal slaughter and the other was excited to learn. Both were taking radical responsibility for their food by being a part of the death that gives them life.

5-Meat: The lamb meat was roasted in the oven at the Village Terraces common kitchen while we listened to food songs on WNCW, drank wine, and prepared stuffing and gallons of gravy. The meal was a sort of pre-arranged potluck and folks could choose to purchase (at cost) turkey and/or lamb. YUM!

6-Haggis: “Made from all the parts of the sheep the English won’t eat” read the sign in front of this dish that many of us have only heard about in old stories. This version was made by one of our Dutch members using the organs to create a surprisingly (to me) tasty treat.

7-Head Cheese: No it’s not cheese, and Yes it is made from the head. A molded gelatinous ring making good use of even more parts of this animal that would often be discarded.

8-Fiddle Strings: A friend heard that a sheep was being slaughters on the land and called to ask if he could have the intestines to make fiddle strings. The request was of course honored and perhaps he will honor us with some of his music in the future.

9-Testicles/Stretching Our Comfort Zone: The testicles, batter dipped and fried, were served as an appetizer before our incredible dinner. My mind was a bit squeamish (ok, repulsed) at the thought of eating testicles, but I certainly wasn’t going to pass up this rare opportunity. I pushed through the discomfort and was rewarded with a superior taste sensation. I mean really, batter dipped and fried? You can’t go wrong.

10-Stock: After dinner the lamb bones came back to the VT kitchen where they spent 24 hours simmering on the stove to create a rich delicious nutrient dense stock. We love to use this for soup, cooking grains, or mix it with miso and drink it. We also pressure canned a round of it to use in next Thanksgivings’ gravy.

One more

11-Hide: The lamb hide is currently undergoing the tanning process. You just might see it as apparel at next years’ dinner.

In Praise of Inefficiency

by Kimchi Rylander

Unplugging from consumer culture, living simply and building community . . . it’s not an easy path! As I review my past ten years here at Earthaven, I’ve discovered that letting go of efficiency may be a shortcut to village togetherness and happiness.

I owe so much gratitude to the Tribal Condo, one of the earliest timber framed, hand built structures at Earthaven and a place that I call home. While the original builders gained much needed skill, building with lumber hand harvested from the land, the house has minimal plumbing, salvaged leaky windows, and no inside insulation between floors. In essence, it’s a house that needs constant maintenance and care. In 2001, I took a leap of faith and bought into the 1000 sq ft “apartment” house.

In the early years, I wondered if I had made a poor decision. Clearly, this house was inefficient and likely to decay sooner than other homes. However, as Suchi (my house partner) and I began to maintain and repair it, we noticed how each episode offered a tremendous opportunity to connect and relate within the village.

One year, our roof blew off when a strong wind funneled down the mountain and pulled out purlins that had only been nailed (not screwed) in. Torrents of rain came down, and all the residents of our home crawled out on the roof at two o’clock in the morning to pull the tin back on. The next day, villagers offered to provide lodging for us and repair the damage. It was awesome how the community helped us through our “disaster!”

While efficiency offers a way to make the most of the available energy, time, and money we have on hand, it doesn’t always maximize opportunities for relationships in a community. Take a look at Nature: at one level it’s very inefficient, but at another level, it provides myriad opportunities to weave a tapestry of dense interdependency within a locale.

“If a house is built too well, so efficiently that it is permanent and refuses to fall apart, then people do not have a reason to come together. Though the house stays together, the people fall apart and nothing gets renewed. Coming together … to do communal tasks gracefully—tasks that a machine could do in an instant anonymously—or to repair rickety houses ensures the very smiley togetherness so missing in the pre-planned, alienated lives of modern civilization.” (Secrets of the Talking Jaguar: Memoirs From the Living Heart of a Mayan Village, by Martín Pretchel.)

Suchi and I chuckled after discovering yet another item to be fixed in the house. “Please pass the bottle of inefficiency,” I decided. “I’d like to sprinkle some more of that on my plate of life.”

Kimchi Rylander is co-Firekeeper, and longtime member of Earthaven Ecovillage. An artist, deep ecologist, and permaculture activist, she is currently building delicious new cultural topsoil beginning in “her own backyard.”

Doing the Forest Inventory, by Alice Henry

It’s a dance of sorts. It starts in a circle, holding hands. There’s a break, for talking. Then there are the reels through the woods, discovering the way the forest grows. It’s also a future legend that starts like this. Sustainable Forestry at Earthaven Ecovillage

Once upon a time Earthaven hired a forester, Shawn Swartz (who used to be a Full Member and live here with his family), to guide us towards a forest plan. The plan is designed to inform, instruct and guide us in making choices about how to (or not to) relate to the various forest species we live with.

The first step is to agree on priorities. What’s most important—protection, product, aesthetics, wild life or education? If we manage for protection, will we also get enough firewood? If we manage for product, can we also prioritize restoration? Or the health of one product over others? a footbridge through the sustainably managed forest at Earthaven

“Keep in mind,” Shawn advised, “no management—meaning the elimination of human intervention—is also a management strategy. Leaving a healthy stand alone might be the best choice, but letting the forest take care of itself can also mean letting nut-bearing hardwoods die off, while rhododendron and red maple take over.” We decided protection and product are equally “most important”; if we manage for product, we intend to do so in ways that maximize forest health.

To do a forest inventory, you have to literally take one. The idea is to get a “snapshot” of the forest, a picture of which species are doing well. How tall are the trees? How much timber is there? Are the stands of mixed age and species? What’s in the understory?

Autumn forest beauty as we took our forest inventory at EarthavenTo get a fair inventory of the species in our forest, we worked with samples: one “point” for every six acres. With 240 acres designated to remain forested, we had 40 points to march to. March? More like crawl and beat a way through the thickets! And a whole lot of up and down as well, from ridge to ridge, across slopes and gullies. We’d note the parameters of all trees within range of a point: diameter, height, species, regeneration on forest floor, snags, and presence or absence of invasive species. At one point there were sizable trees, the biggest a northern red oak, diameter 17.9 inches. The understory included pipcissiwa, magnolia, silverbell and cat briar.

And so it went—eleven species in all (chestnut oak, scarlet oak, northern red oak, maple, tulip poplar, sourwood, birch, pine, hemlock, locust and black gum in various groupings) plus thickets of rhododendron and/or mountain laurel. Diameters ranged from 1.2 to 38 inches. Except for a point where there were quite a few two-and three-trunk chestnut oaks (trees that grew together and became one tree at about breast height), Shawn said no doubt this place was logged about 80 years ago.

At the last point, Shawn did a site index, an index of productivity based on age and height. He had record sheets and knowledge of what to record and why. If a tree might have logs, he would ask someone to “get the logs of that tree Marie (or Darren or Gaspar) is on.” Someone would pace off the 66 feet and measure with a special tool called a Biltmore Stick. Sometimes an experienced eye was used to estimate logs, especially where it was impossible to sight the base or if the tree had kinks, bends and flaws. Thanks to a leading teacher, or a teaching leader, we learned by doing.

Pumpkin Carvin’

 

 

A cold and rainy day didn’t keep the pumpkin carvers away. There is a full week of activities at Earthaven Ecovillage to celebrate Halloween and one of my favorites is the annual pumpkin carving.

I went over to the Council Hall with my eight-month-old, Oakley, inside my rain jacket. I wasn’t sure how much I would be able to participate with him there but wanted to hang out anyway. I always loved pumpkin carving as a kid and was excited to introduce the tradition to him on his very first Halloween.

Before I even got in the building I noticed a small group of musicians standing in the middle of the room. It hadn’t been pre-planned, but what a treat to have live bluegrass music at this event.

A happy group of kids and their parents, along with a few witches, were already elbow deep in pumpkin guts when I got there. Some people were also hollowing out huge turnips and I learned that turnips where the original jack-o-lanterns. Legend has it that there was once a man named Jack who was so bad that when he died even the devil wouldn’t take him into the underworld and he was left to eternally wander the earth with his lantern. When European people came to America they brought their vegetable lantern carving tradition with them. I can only imagine how excited they were to learn about pumpkins, which I can tell you from direct observation, are a lot easier to carve than turnips. The challenge, however, did not stop Earthaveners from giving it a try and several beautiful turnip jack-o-lanterns sat next to the pumpkin ones decorating our Council Hall for the Samhian Ancestor Feast a few days later.

I saw a pumpkin getting carved with a pretty intricate face, one with a moon and stars, and one being cut into many curved ring layers. There were still pumpkins available so I thought I would give it a try and see how far I could get on a carving project of my own. I put Oakley on the floor and to my surprise he was perfectly happy playing with and tasting the pumpkin guts while I cut out super basic, classic triangle features.

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

Founding Day Parade 2011

On Sunday, September 11, I heard music and drumming in the distance on Another Way, the road in front of our house.

The Founding Day parade was marching down the road from the direction of our front gate. Banners, flags, drums, people smiling and waving.

Every year we celebrate our birthday — September 11, 1994 — with a parade. This is the day Earthaven’s 12 original founders pledged money at an afternoon tea party to buy our 320 acres.


Shangri-Laundry

The Shangri-Laundry is located in the basement of this building

In June 2011 the Forest Garden Neighborhood welcomed Shangri-Laundry, a self-service laundromat that is convenient, green, and clean. Parking is available just past the building. There is one double-load washer and one double-load propane dryer, so you can reserve time online for hassle-free scheduling. The primary source of electricity is the photovoltaic array pictured to the left of the building.

    My neighborhood (Village Terraces) has a shared washer, but I like to use Shangri-Laundry when the weather is too rainy for outdoor drying. And, I often sleep too late to get my wash hung on the line in time to dry. 🙂

 

Diana Leafe Christian organized the laundry coop and the system was designed by Greg Geis. It is easy to use. When you walk into the nice, cool basement, this motion-sensor light comes on, so you can see to put your laundry in the washer before inserting money that starts your timed access to electricity: lights, washer, dryer, and DSL broadband Internet.

First you insert bills ($5 or $1)

Then start the on-demand hot water heater (unless you are doing a cold wash)

Then you add soap (supplied for you) and start the washer

 

The laundry supplies environmentally friendly laundry soap and booster for you to use at no extra charge, as well as about eco-cleaners you can buy at Shangri-Laundry.

While the washer is running, you can hang out on the sofa and go online or read magazines that are provided. You can lock yourself in for privacy (and there are toilet facilities). There are plans to install a bathtub later, so you will be able to relax in a hot bath while the machines spin!

 

Here is Greg moving his laundry from the washer up to the dryer. Both the washer and dryer are energy-efficient and have multiple settings from heavy-duty to delicate. The front-loading washer is gentle on your clothes. It senses the size of the load and adjusts the amount of water accordingly. The dryer can be set for a timed cycle or to sense when your clothes are dry. The length of washer and dryer cycles can vary based on the load size and the options you select.

 

 

When you are down to your last 15 minutes (a dollar’s worth of time), a constant beeping will start and this blue light will blink. You can press the blue button to stop the beeping if you don’t need any more time. Insert another dollar as needed to keep the electricity going until you are done.

 

There are many helpful signs to guide you through the steps. The Shangri-Laundry is available for Earthaven residents, visitors, and neighbors. We hope it will help make our lives more sustainable by letting folks avoid a trip into town to do laundry. We are interested in feedback to make the laundry meet your needs–please “like” us and stay in touch on our Facebook Page.

Video Portraits of Two Earthaven Members

Here are two portrait videos made by Jacki Huntington, a UNC journalism student who spent a month here last summer, then returned for a weekend this spring to wrap up her project. One focuses on Michaeljon and the other on redmoonsong.


and

Hut Hamlet Trampoline

A video by Will Rogers:

hht from will rogers on Vimeo.